When youngsters stole the show at the 12-day annual Koodiyattam festival

The festival showed how well the Ammannur school has kept alive the Sanskrit theatre tradition

When the 35th Koodiyattam Festival concluded at Ammannur Chachu Chakyar Smaraka Gurukulam, Irinjalakuda, on January 12, the organisers, artistes and connoisseurs had many reasons to rejoice. It was for the first time that a wealth of promising young talent, all products of the institution, could prove their virtuosity by sharing the stage with seasoned artistes. The second half of the 12-day festival was especially noteworthy for the maturity with which these youngsters presented numerous characters.

Moulding students

The festival was also a demonstration of the persevering efforts of the institution to mould students to carry forward the hoary tradition of the Sanskrit theatre as well as the prestige of the Ammannur School.

From the time the infrastructure for conducting such an elaborate festival became available in 1992, the dates January 1 to 12 have been permanent in the Koodiyattam calendar, including for aficionados from overseas. This year, of course, the live shows were streamed live for faraway audiences while a small number of local connoisseurs turned up at the venue.

The theatre’s presentation format — Purappad, Nirvahanam, Koodiyattam, and even the rarely staged ‘Mudiyakkatha’, the grand finale — was strictly followed. The performances in the first half were anchored on ‘Asokavanikamgam’ from Ascharyachoodamani.

Elaborate start

The festival began with the purappadu of Mandodari in the play by Athira Hariharan, daughter of veteran artistes Usha Nagiar and mizhavu exponent Hariharan, a remarkable performance.

‘Mandodari’ by Usha Nangiar and ‘Chedi’ by Saritha Krishnakumar. | Photo Credit: Photo: Special Arrangement

The nirvahanam or pre-story recital of the character was so elaborate that it was presented by Aparna Nangiar, Saritha Krishnan and Kapila Venu over three days. While Aparna enacted the origin of Mandodari’s parents, Saritha portrayed the circumstances that led to Mandodari’s birth.

Kapila used her unmatched histrionics to showcase Ravana’s severe penance and the boons he was granted by Shiva. As for the Koodiyattam part, Usha donned the role of Mandodari and Saritha of the sakhi.

‘Torayudham Koodiyattam’ from Abhisheka Natakam was the focus of the subsequent days. Gurukulam Tharun did a commendable job of Sankukarnan’s purappadu on the sixth day followed by nirvahanam the next day. The young actor with only six years of training exhibited laudable maturity. Sooraj Nambiar, among the seniormost in the fraternity, did Ravana’s nirvahanam on the eighth day.

At their best

Guru Ammannur Kuttan Chakyar as Hanuman, Gurukulam Krishnadev and Gurukulam Sankaran as Rakshasas and Gurukulam Tharun as Vibheeshana | Photo Credit: Photo: Special Arrangement

The Koodiyattam on the ninth day seemed like an exposition by the youngsters. Gurukulam Tharun (Ravana), Gurukulam Krishnadev (Sankukarnan) and Gurukulam Anjana (Vijaya) revealed their best by depicting various anecdotes including the building of Ashok Vanika, Ravana’s fury when he is informed of its destruction by Hanuman etc.

Interestingly, Krishnadev and Tharun appeared on the next day too, with the long hours of performance on the previous day no way affecting their gusto. Sooraj Nambiar’s depiction of the much sought-after Kailasodharanam and Parvathy Viraham roles on the 11th day deserves special mention. Gurukulam Sankaran portrayed Vibhishana.

Ammannur Kuttan (Parameswaran) Chakyar, head of the gurukulam, turned up on the last day to don the role of Ravana. His command to set fire to Hanuman’s tail and make arrangements for the security of Lanka was unique in all respects. The festival concluded with the traditional Mudi akkitha led by Kuttan Chakyar.

An array of percussionists contributed their might for the success of the festival. They included Kalamandalam Rajeev, Kalamandalam Hariharan, Kalamandalam Vijay, Kalamandalam Rahul and Nepathya Jinesh, all on mizhavu, and Kalanilayam Unnikrishnan, Moorkanad Dinesh Warrier and Kalamandalam Sudheesh on edakka.

The writer and culture critic

is a trained musician.

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